INDIANAPOLIS — If the impact of Penn State’s loss to Indiana hadn’t set in yet, a quick glance at the schedule would do the trick.
Sitting at 3-2 after dropping the Big Ten opener in Bloomington, the Nittany Lions face back-to-back games against the league’s perennial powers — Michigan and Ohio State, both still undefeated.
The Lions have a second and final bye week between the two contests, but the point remains the same. Wallow too long over the 42-24 loss to the Hoosiers and risk entering November at 0-3 in league play.
“We’re all a resilient bunch of guys,” linebacker Mike Hull said. “We’ve been through too much together to let a couple bad games set us back.
“I still say we have a very special group. We’re down right now, but we’re gonna have some good moments coming our way.”
Penn State can’t afford to think any other way as the 2013 season threatens to unravel.
The Lions have some experience in this category to draw upon. No matter how lousy the plane ride back to State College was on Saturday night, it couldn’t match the gloom that hung over the team after an 0-2 start last season in the wake of the NCAA sanctions.
“If you look at how we came back last year, we had a pretty successful year,” linebacker Glenn Carson said, referring to the Lions’ 8-2 record over their final 10 games. “That’s just the type of guys we have on our team, and I’m sure we’re going to bounce back from this.”
Seniors like Carson and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones said there are lessons they learned — both emotionally and physically — from last year’s start that they believe they can apply to this season.
But there’s no question there’s a different dynamic on this year’s Penn State squad.
It would be impossible to recreate the unique tension and charged atmosphere that existed in 2012 as the Lions rallied from the sanctions and the Jerry Sandusky scandal. A remarkable senior class that rallied behind Bill O’Brien in his first year as coach played the biggest role.
But as time fades along with some of the sanctions, so does some of that us-against-the-world mentality that pervaded the locker room a year ago.
“I think we’ve kind of gotten away from all that,” Carson said. “We’re just a football team. That’s kind of how we want to be looked at. We don’t want that. We’re not against the world. It’s nothing like that.”
But it could be a well that O’Brien reaches back into this week for motivation.
When asked about that possible shift in mentality, O’Brien said it hasn’t disappeared entirely. And it doesn’t sound as if he wants it to fade away.
“I don’t think it’s gone,” O’Brien said. “You look at this football team, we have 61 kids on scholarship and 40 walk-ons. We can’t go to a bowl. Can’t play for championships. … I think that reserve (of emotion) is still there.”
Regardless of where the motivation comes from, the Lions have to generate some to get back on track. And it will be the job of seniors like Carson, Jones and Urschel to bring it out.
It starts with putting this latest loss behind them.
“I don’t think about this as being a low point,” Urschel said. “It’s a loss. Indiana beat us. You can’t let yourself think of it as anything more.”